Plunder the Egyptians July 2021

Dr. Tim Foster - 28 July 2021

Articles & Blogs
“When Do We Actually Need to Meet in Person?”
by Rae Ringel
Harvard Business Review – July 26, 2021
As the way we work and meet changes during (and after) Covid, we have the opportunity to change the way we meet. By evaluating the level of interpersonal and goal complexity we can determine the relative merits of face to face versus online. When taken together with Patrick Lencioni’s “four types of meetings” (see Book Review below) this approach offers huge productivity dividends. The other possibility considered in this article is a hybrid meeting utlising pre-recorded video, shared documents and break out rooms.

“Want a Better Decision? Plan a Better Meeting”
By Aaron De Smet, Gregor Jost, and Leigh Weiss
McKinsey & Company – May 8, 2019
A great primer on effective meeting management which provides three questions we should ask about any meeting we run. In particular the authors provide guidance towards ensuring decision meetings are framed in a way that leads to good decisions (get all the information needed for the meeting out beforehand, delineating discussion time and decision time during the meeting, and having the right people in the room). The authors also produced a slightly rambly, but worthwhile podcast that goes into more depth on how to promote better decision making in meetings.

“Run Meetings That Are Fair to Introverts, Women, and Remote Workers”
by Renee Cullinan
Harvard Business Review – April 29, 2-16
Meeting chairs need care and discipline not to fall into the trap of overlooking introverts, remote workers and women. We may not be actively silencing these voices, but we may have biases that inhibit the contribution of these people. I particularly struggle to include introverts, and have had to learn how to structure a meeting to maximise their contribution. By ensuring everyone is included we ensure higher quality dialogue, greater ownership of the outcomes and better decisions.

Must Read Books
Patrick M. Lencioni, Death by Meeting. Jossey-Bass 2004.
I love this book, and so will provide a longer than usual summary here. Patrick Lencioni, best known for The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, is the leading management guru of the 21st century. In this “leadership fable”, he identifies two basic problems with meetings. First, meetings lack drama. Which means they are boring. Second, most meetings lack context and purpose. They are a confusing mix of administrivia, tactics, strategy and review, all of which creates unfocused, meandering and seemingly endless conferences, with little resolution or clarity.

In order to create drama, Lencioni says to table the most controversial issues upfront. Forget about minutes, reports and updates. These can be discussed later. Generate conflict, build engagement and unleash creativity by dealing with the tough issues right up front.

Second, don’t try and do everything in the one meeting. Different types of meetings demand different amounts of time, headspace, location and rules. There are four types of meeting – Daily check-in (administrative), tactical staff, adhoc topical (strategic, problem focussed) and quarterly offsite. The key is to set the right agenda and expectations to suit the meeting’s purpose. For example, the ‘daily check-in’ is a stand up meeting of 5-10 minutes which is purely administrative. An adhoc topical meeting will have 2-4 hours of focussed time, preparation in advance and fully embraces conflict.

Death by Meeting has application to all kinds of contexts, including church boards which habitually meet monthly and follow a set agenda. This book will encourage you to mix it up, which will make them more interesting and much more productive.

From the Academy
The Ridley Centre for Leadership is committed to biblically based leadership that is also research-aware. Too often leadership literature is popular, faddish and anecdotal. Here we identify some quality scholarship that informs our theme.

“Do We Really Need Another Meeting? The Science of Workplace Meetings”
Joseph E. Mroz, Joseph A. Allen, Dana C. Verhoeven, and Marissa L. Shuffler
Current Directions in Psychological Science, October 2018

This is an excellent study that offers concrete advice based on extensive research. The review examines current directions for the psychological science of workplace meetings, with a focus on applying scientific findings about the activities that occur before, during, and after meetings that facilitate success. Checklists, key questions and evidence-based conclusions make this a very valuable 30 minute read.

“Meetings Matter: Effects of Team Meetings on Team and Organizational Success”
Simone Kauffeld, Nale Lehmann-Willenbrock
Small Group Research 43(2), 2012

This study shows that the key to understanding team meeting effectiveness lies in uncovering the microlevel interaction processes throughout the meeting. Managing dysfunctional communication, especially complaints, while promoting solution-oriented discussion is critical. Teams that showed more functional interaction in their meetings, in terms of problem-focused, positive, procedural, and proactive communication, were significantly more satisfied with their meetings. However, an active problem-solving approach that incorporates specific action planning communication in a meeting seems to be quite difficult to pursue for many teams. Dysfunctional communication, such as criticizing others or complaining, showed significant negative relationships with these outcomes. These negative effects were even more pronounced than the positive effects of functional team meeting interaction. The results suggest that team meeting processes shape both team and organizational outcomes.